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Religion in Exalted: Lifeless and Pale

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  • #61
    When it comes to religion in Exalted, there's so much that seems to be overlooked. For example, most people will never see a god in their entire lives and so most mortals will have the same relation to divinities as any Earth religion, in just the same amount of flavors. Much of the religious practice in Exalted is portrayed as local, transactional, and jaded. "I pray to the river god, he doesn't flood the town and we get better catches." I could see that out of a dynast, but from someone who has never seen the river god and couldn't tell whether the fishing was better than before they started praying to the river god? It's going to have a different tenor. The god's influence, left to the imagination, is going to balloon in the mind of mortals who are dependent on the river for their livelihoods.

    ​Further, there's a level that isn't being considered. Part of most religions is that the god or gods being worshipped have knowledge about the way that the universe works and have imparted to mortals a way of living that is in harmony with the universe, which formed the core of their moral beliefs. Even the Greeks and Romans had the idea of the Elysian Fields, where the favored and righteous could go if they lived noble lives. Does anyone think the Vikings would have been half as warlike if their religion didn't hold up the idea of dying in battle as the thing to strive for? Part of what gives a fervor to religion is the belief that you are living your life in a good way and that to live your life in some other way is wrong. That wrongness isn't just a "my god doesn't like that" wrongness, but a "this is an affront to the universe" wrongness. Consider the religious conflict between Hindus and Muslims. One thinks cows are sacred, the other periodically sacrifices cattle. To try to get either side to do what the other side believes is right will get more than a "but I'd offend my god".



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    • #62
      Originally posted by Thesaurasaurus View Post

      I said, "not AS susceptible"! Basically I'm looking for reasons for PCs to treat a god any differently than they would any other petty tyrant - reasons other than "you risk creating a power vacuum" or "mumble mumble Wyld something".

      You could have an active god that isn't a petty tyrant? Maybe even psyche them out and place the breadcrumbs for them to easily jump to the conclusion that this god is gaining undue wealth from an oppressed peoples, but end up realizing that the relationship is actually quite symbiotic.


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      • #63
        Originally posted by Blaque View Post

        Seemed to work just fine with the Greeks, who as I gather did a lot of their religion under a premise of threat by gods who were, well, jerks and held humans to higher standards than themselves. This is something of a trope I find in Japanese media as well.

        Well, as far as applying anthropomorphic tendencies onto objects and giving gods more human like features, yes that happens a lot in Japanese media, but its probably a disservice to apply it to how the greeks treated their gods since your comparing a religion of the present to practices of a the past. Contrary to popular belief the Japanese, like any other people, change their religion over time when new things are introduced.

        We also lack a full picture of how spirits act in creation from a communication standpoint, but I guess we shall see as time moves onward for the supplements.


        How can I know if what I claim I know to be true is rejecting the idea that there is something I might not know? How can I know if what I claim I don't know to be true is rejecting the idea that there is something I do know?
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        • #64
          Originally posted by Ghosthead View Post
          Not totally wrong, but I would argue you are edging towards simplification to imagine that before modern science, there was not a rich dialogue going on within theologians, about the importance of non-rational, and rationally unprovable, revelation. (Revelation and personal spirituality and faith in ideas that you cannot reason your way towards were not taken to be something that was unnecessary in the face of sufficient reason.)

          The idea of faith as belief in revelation and personal experience of spirituality that overrides the rational is not ersatz modern development to cope with science; people in the past well before modern science were well aware that revelation and spirituality was radically at odds with rational experience, and they developed ideas around this which have long are part of religious faith.

          (I'm struggling a little to not crudely represent this but it feels like in the raw form your have presented it you may have the risk of getting towards some kind of "Conflict Thesis" in which Christian or Abrahamic religion, after the birth of modern science, is seen as allied to a kind of force against scientific "progress", and the idea of "faith" - belief in living power of revelation and personal spiritual experience over the rational - is close to a kind of willful ignorance.)
          Yeah, sorry, that was probably more reductive than is useful in the long term.

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          • #65
            Originally posted by Thesaurasaurus View Post

            I said, "not AS susceptible"! Basically I'm looking for reasons for PCs to treat a god any differently than they would any other petty tyrant - reasons other than "you risk creating a power vacuum" or "mumble mumble Wyld something".

            A god that is a petty tyrant is...a petty tyrant that happens to be a god. They have cronies, who happen to be powerful elementals, and they have thugs and officials and so on. A god just lives longer, and maybe is a bit more eccentric and well settled in. And probably more physically powerful than, say, the average mortal sorcerer. Part of the idea of Exalted is that, yeah, you can in fact go beat up gods. Your playing Diomedes or the Monkey King.


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            • #66
              Originally posted by Stephen Lea Sheppard View Post

              Yeah, sorry, that was probably more reductive than is useful in the long term.
              No, not at all (there's definitely something to it anyway and it added to the conversation).

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              • #67
                Originally posted by Ostarion View Post


                Well, as far as applying anthropomorphic tendencies onto objects and giving gods more human like features, yes that happens a lot in Japanese media, but its probably a disservice to apply it to how the greeks treated their gods since your comparing a religion of the present to practices of a the past. Contrary to popular belief the Japanese, like any other people, change their religion over time when new things are introduced.

                We also lack a full picture of how spirits act in creation from a communication standpoint, but I guess we shall see as time moves onward for the supplements.
                Mostly just citing that the idea that gods can be jerks doesn'ts eem to be a way to keep folks from worshipping them, and in fact, entire pantehons seem toh ave that element to them from an outsider's perspective. (I coudl be controversial and say that even some modern deities are not really so hot seeming and comes tdown to a form of extortion by some readings.)


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                • #68
                  The prime thing I see on why people worship gods* is what is the god is offering in exchange for the worship. Like field gods are worshiped with the hope of a bountiful harvest; river gods stuff like good fishing, or that the floods aren't too bad this year; or a god of a plague with the desire for it to keep the disease away from myself and those I care about, or that someone I hate will get it; or that Old Lady Big Rock Mountain will not send an avalanche to kill everyone.

                  Honestly, with how gods and elementals kind of work in Creation I would say more often you're likely to end up with things like folklore procedures where you do a thing during certain situations in hopes of that result as opposed to something like a temple of Tymora. Though I do snicker at the idea that individuals who travel extensively make a point to inquire about what god is in charge of what thing in a local area to avoid cheesing off the local god by praying for safe travel to the wrong diety.

                  *Please excuse that this is going to be rather reductive.
                  Last edited by nalak42; 12-18-2017, 08:34 PM.

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                  • #69
                    Originally posted by Kyeudo View Post
                    When it comes to religion in Exalted, there's so much that seems to be overlooked. For example, most people will never see a god in their entire lives and so most mortals will have the same relation to divinities as any Earth religion, in just the same amount of flavors. Much of the religious practice in Exalted is portrayed as local, transactional, and jaded. "I pray to the river god, he doesn't flood the town and we get better catches." I could see that out of a dynast, but from someone who has never seen the river god and couldn't tell whether the fishing was better than before they started praying to the river god? It's going to have a different tenor. The god's influence, left to the imagination, is going to balloon in the mind of mortals who are dependent on the river for their livelihoods.

                    ​Further, there's a level that isn't being considered. Part of most religions is that the god or gods being worshipped have knowledge about the way that the universe works and have imparted to mortals a way of living that is in harmony with the universe, which formed the core of their moral beliefs. Even the Greeks and Romans had the idea of the Elysian Fields, where the favored and righteous could go if they lived noble lives. Does anyone think the Vikings would have been half as warlike if their religion didn't hold up the idea of dying in battle as the thing to strive for? Part of what gives a fervor to religion is the belief that you are living your life in a good way and that to live your life in some other way is wrong. That wrongness isn't just a "my god doesn't like that" wrongness, but a "this is an affront to the universe" wrongness. Consider the religious conflict between Hindus and Muslims. One thinks cows are sacred, the other periodically sacrifices cattle. To try to get either side to do what the other side believes is right will get more than a "but I'd offend my god".
                    For your first paragraph, it really comes down to what the Realm's point of view is. The hundred gods heresy is a category and label that Realm theologians use to describe all those other schools of thought that lie mostly outside of their own. It is a form of prejudice. We should not mistake that prejudice for what actually is happening in the vast lands known in the threshold and perhaps pockets of even the Realm itself. And as a category, the hundred gods heresy is very simple, contained, and lacks rich context which are things one can say about any category that tries to make grand declarations about the whole of some facet of existance. So if it seems like it lacks passion or richness, it is because your looking at it from an outsider's perspective which is the Realm.

                    In other words, we need the rest of the game so that we have more examples.

                    For the second paragraph, it can be tempting to think that harmony and moral beliefs are the cornerstone of all religious thought, but this is a civilizational perspective as your examples illustrate. What about the marginalized, or those people that are told by everyone else that they are the monsters, or those who choose to walk away from society and become ascetic. There are a lot of other things gods can do besides imparting knowledge or lessons on the ways of the world. Transactions, friendships, living, and strife are just as important for gods as explaining the nature of existance.

                    In other words, religion is much more expansive in the context of Exalted than is normally accredited to it.
                    Last edited by Ostarion; 12-18-2017, 10:48 PM.


                    How can I know if what I claim I know to be true is rejecting the idea that there is something I might not know? How can I know if what I claim I don't know to be true is rejecting the idea that there is something I do know?
                    -Zhuangzi

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                    • #70
                      Originally posted by Epee102 View Post
                      I mean...Diomedes nearly killed Aphrodite and Ares, Achilles killed a river god(or wrestled him to near death, I forget).
                      Aphrodite got a scratch on her hand and proceeded to drop her son and go whine to Zeus.
                      Ares was wounded by Athena, and proceeded to scream and whine to Zeus.

                      The point in both cases was to show that the gods are petty, fleeing battle in the face of relatively minor wounds while the mortals are evidencing true heroism on the field. It is part of a broader scheme of depicting the gods as less serious and capable of true nobility and self-sacrifice like the mortals are. The gods don't actually need it though, they live forever and so they don't need a good reputation. Mortals die and only their kleos, their fame, survives.

                      As for Xanthus, the river, he never went mano a mano with Achilles. He caused the river to flood and Achilles was at risk of drowning or being swept away until Hephestus threw some of the fire form his forge into the river and Xanthus agreed to pull the river back rather than let the stream be dried up. He was also never in real danger.

                      The fact that they do not, and cannot, die is central to the Greek gods. One of the terms for them is the Athanatoi, the deathless ones in comparison to mortals, the Thnetoi, the dying (or even dead) ones. This is part of the reason why their interactions are they way they are. While they are powerful to greater and lesser degrees they cannot kill each other and do not want to spend eternity feuding so they agree to stay out of each other's business. When the Furies are after Orestes, even after Athena and Apollo pull rank and say Zeus (who holds the aegis and is unchallengeable) is behind them it does not mollify them and so Athena has to negotiate a bribe of honor and festivals to get them to back down.

                      The Odyssey took a much different approach.




                      On the thread topic, part of the difficulty seems to me that it is hard to reconcile being petty and numinous at the same time. Much is made of the fact that the god is not the river, but that may have been taken too far to the point that gods don't actually do anything and sort of exist as emergent properties of sufficiently large systems who have to find something to do with themselves for eternity.
                      Last edited by Exthalion; 12-19-2017, 03:19 AM.

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                      • #71
                        When it comes to discussing the religious dimensions of some older religions, I think it's worth recognising that there's a difference between a popular narrative and an actual spiritual belief.

                        ​I've heard it said that there were certain Greek social commentators who were actually highly critical of poets and playwrights who would present the gods as being petty and venal, even if such stories tended to have a lot of popular appeal.


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                        • #72
                          Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                          When it comes to discussing the religious dimensions of some older religions, I think it's worth recognising that there's a difference between a popular narrative and an actual spiritual belief.

                          ​I've heard it said that there were certain Greek social commentators who were actually highly critical of poets and playwrights who would present the gods as being petty and venal, even if such stories tended to have a lot of popular appeal.
                          Plato banned poets from the Republic for that reason,yeah.


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                          • #73
                            When it comes to the idea of religion conflating moral instruction with cosmic order, when there are people who think in those terms (which should still be recognised as far from universal), I think it's more often going to come in the form of principles underlying the gods, rather than the gods themselves. There might be a certain degree of personification of that underlying principle in a similar manner to the Immaculate Philosophy's take on the Elemental Dragons, but not often something conflated with the apparent gods, even in cases where they're more obscured from their worshippers.

                            ​I'd say that the closest thing is an ideology stating that the gods themselves are strong adherents, rather than the originators, of that cosmic order, and thus observation of them can be instructive.


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                            • #74
                              Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                              When it comes to discussing the religious dimensions of some older religions, I think it's worth recognising that there's a difference between a popular narrative and an actual spiritual belief.

                              ​I've heard it said that there were certain Greek social commentators who were actually highly critical of poets and playwrights who would present the gods as being petty and venal, even if such stories tended to have a lot of popular appeal.
                              Plato. Plato fucking hated Homer. And by contrast, Aristotle kind of reads like an atheist or at least a deist (by modern standards, not his mind) depending on how you interpret how much weight he gives to the gods in his stuff.


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                              • #75
                                Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                                When it comes to the idea of religion conflating moral instruction with cosmic order, when there are people who think in those terms (which should still be recognised as far from universal), I think it's more often going to come in the form of principles underlying the gods, rather than the gods themselves. There might be a certain degree of personification of that underlying principle in a similar manner to the Immaculate Philosophy's take on the Elemental Dragons, but not often something conflated with the apparent gods, even in cases where they're more obscured from their worshippers.

                                ​I'd say that the closest thing is an ideology stating that the gods themselves are strong adherents, rather than the originators, of that cosmic order, and thus observation of them can be instructive.
                                Arguably, a big thing with Creation is the moral authority in Abrahamic religions attributed to deities is not in the hands of deities. You do things for your god because you like them and what they do for you (again, kind of categorizing how ti seemed like the Greeks and Romans did it, and I feel Shinto does a bit today). Any "moral authority" in things beyond that, such as Shinto's emphasis or purity or secular views of the Stoics in trying to get closer to the Numina.

                                By contrast, the religions we have seen in Creation tend to have things like sense of resposniblity to your family (ancestor cults a lot), attempts to ascend tos oem state of glorly and prestige (the cult of Ahlat, Medo's take on the ancestor cult), some form of refinement and focus on the next life (the Immacualte Order, the relgion in Skullstone I believe), or some non-divine means of ascension (the Cult of the Illuminated). There's also probably a lot of religions which have a fairly dharmic element to them which permeates things. And dharmic religions are able to function just fine without gods that need approval for your actions, as the judge of karma and such is often independent of the gods people will interact with. (Though the Bardo can take some pretty divine form at times.)

                                I think again, this needs to be thought of a bit. And something that's a bit of a begged questin for some folks on the idea of religion that might be worth remembering: Religion doesn't necesitate gods.


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